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What to Do if HMRC Carries Out a Dawn Raid

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Dawn raids are carried out by various government bodies including financial authorities, the Serious Fraud office and HMRC. With tax evasion high on the political agenda and millions of pounds of additional budgeting earmarked to tackle it, the chances of a dawn raid by HMRC have increased significantly recently.

If you or your business is subjected to an HMRC dawn raid there are a number of important points to remember as it happens. For immediate legal advice contact Rollingsons on 0207 611 4848.

HMRC Dawn Raid – Initial Entry

As soon as HMRC have made their initial entry into the premises, the following steps should be taken by the office manager or other designated person:

  • Identify the officer in charge.
  • Ask to see a copy of the warrant (this is normally presented).
  • Request that the search is delayed for a reasonable time to enable your legal representative to arrive.
  • Contact your legal representative and, if possible, send them a scanned copy of the warrant.
  • Try to agree a search methodology with the officer in charge.

Do not attempt to obstruct the search. The officer in charge may be willing to wait until your legal representative arrives but is not obliged to do so.

HMRC Dawn Raid - Warrants

The warrant sets out the terms upon which the search may be carried out. The officer in charge may not agree to delay the search until your legal representative arrives but may be willing to discuss the warrant with your legal representative on the telephone before carrying out the search.

If your legal representative does not arrive prior to the search then it is important that the designated person checks and understands the warrant parameters which will include:

  • The address.
  • The date for which it is valid.
  • Any restrictions such as numbers of officers.
  • The scope of the search.
  • The length of time in which HMRC has to carry out the search.


HMRC Dawn Raid – The Search

An employee should be assigned to shadow each officer as they carry out the search to ensure that the parameters of the search are not exceeded and to record the details of everything that is reviewed, copied or seized.


  • Must not obstruct the search.
  • Must not conceal information.
  • Cannot be interrogated.
  • May be asked legitimate practical questions by HMRC officers.
  • Should avoid offering casual information to officers.


HMRC Dawn Raid – Documents and Electronic Information

HMRC has fairly broad powers to seize and copy information during a dawn raid including electronically stored files. Where papers are seized, it is acceptable to request that copies be made. The seizure of computers can cause significant operational difficulties for businesses which underlines the importance of backing up information.

Legally privileged information cannot be seized. If there is a dispute, it will be placed in sealed bags until the dispute is resolved.


A dawn raid will always be an unnerving experience for those involved. However, it is important to remain calm and remember that everyone has rights that must be respected.

For advice regarding HMRC dawn raids or help with putting a policy in place to deal with this type of eventuality contact James Crichton via e-mail or by telephone on 0207 611 4848.